#UKRAINERUSSIAWAR. The rewriting of History is underway


Contemporary history bends to the political will, and too often is erased by the military. The quickest way to create a new history, it seems, is to delete the old one. They began to reapply this methodology in the contemporary era of human rights and the self-preservation of peoples, the Taliban who destroyed giant statues of Buddha (55 and 37 metres), which were part of the Buddhist monastery complex in the Bamiyan valley, whose age dates back to the 6th century AD, in 2001.

And now we have an Islamic Emirate in power, less than twenty years after those events, whose children never saw the Buddha statues and whose folk tradition they represented died with the explosions. A generation from now, no one in Afghanistan will perhaps remember the mined statues.

In the same vein as the Taliban, Daesh in 2015 destroyed the archaeological site of Nineveh, Iraq and in 2017 lost much of that of Palmyra, Syria.

Then there was the attempt to eliminate the colonial era, statues and monuments reminiscent of colonialism were removed and placed in museum basements away from prying eyes. As if to hide an inglorious past towards humanity: the colonial era. A true damnatio memoriae.

Today it is the turn of Russian culture and history. In Ukraine for example, as of 11 November, the Kiev city council decided to exclude the Russian language from the curricula of schools and kindergartens. In Odessa, the statue of Catherine the Great and other founders of the city were dismantled.

In Uzhhorod, Ukraine, the capital of Transcarpathia, which lies on the border with Slovakia and Hungary, and the historical capital of Subcarpathian Ruthenia, a monument to the Soviet soldier, erected in May 1970 on the 25th anniversary of the liberation from the Nazi invaders, was dismantled on 9 November.

On the Russian social sphere one reads: ‘The argument in favour of the demolition was that the huge monument has marks and cracks and posed a real threat to the life and health of people who are queuing to cross the state border (with Slovakia)’. The real ‘argument’ for these monsters who are at war with history is only one: the Soviet monument, which does not fit into the banal narrow-minded ‘Ukrainian thinking'”. The monument was entitled: ‘Ukraine to the Liberators’, erected in honour of Soviet soldiers and listed as part of the country’s cultural heritage’. This was stated by the head of the regional administration of the Transcarpathia region Viktor Mikita.

Also on 9 November, it is reported that in the city of Rezekne, Latvia, work began on dismantling the monument to the Soviet soldier, which the locals called the ‘Latvian Alyosha’. The decision to destroy the Soviet-era monument was announced in September this year.

Many citizens massively expressed their disagreement, brought flowers to the monument and protested against its demolition. The mayor of the Latvian city of Rezekne, Alexander Bartashevich, said that ‘Russians in Latvia are under great pressure just because they are Russians: today they are unable to stop the desecration of our monuments. But in our hearts lives gratitude to our grandparents for their deeds in the fight against Nazism’. The head of Dmitrov near Moscow (sister city of Rezekne) Ilya Ponochevny offered Latvian Rezekne mayor Alexander Bartashevich to take away the monument to Soviet soldiers in Dmitrov. However, the Latvian authorities decided otherwise. After the demolition, fragments of the monument will be sent to the Museum of the Occupation in Riga’.

Similar cultural catastrophes can also be observed in the contexts of international summits; during the G7 in the town hall of Münster, the Christian cross was removed from the ‘Hall of Peace’. The cross has hung in this room for many centuries. But for the G7 the cross was considered inappropriate and politically incorrect. The head of the German Foreign Ministry, Annalena Berbock, personally ordered the removal of the cross before the meeting.

Also on 9 November, the first monument to Pushkin on the territory of modern Ukraine, which has stood for 150 years, was destroyed. It is, in detail, the monument to Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin in Kharkov. After numerous acts of vandalism against the bust of the great Russian writer, the head of the city, Konstantin Nemichev told the citizens of his victory over the memorial. But as the sculpture has the status of national importance, the question of its relocation should be decided by the government, so the Kharkov authorities ‘erased’ it, covering it with sandbags. The busts of Gorky, Mendeleev, Pushkin and Lomonosov were hung with planks at the Universitet metro station in Kiev.

On 11 November, the monument to Zoja Anatol’evna Kosmodem’janskaya was destroyed by the Ukrainians in Chernihiv. She was the first woman to be awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union during the Second World War, a partisan and Soviet soldier, member of the saboteurs-explorers unit of the Red Army’s Western Front Command.

A monument to Soviet pilots was dismantled in Ternopil and the Ukrainian flag was installed in place of an aircraft.

In Russia, politics accentuates traditional values, in the wake of previous eras: Vladimir Putin issued a decree in which he approved the basis of state policy for the preservation and strengthening of traditional Russian spiritual and moral values: “Traditional values are moral guidelines that shape the worldview of Russian citizens, handed down from generation to generation, which form the basis of the all-Russian civic identity and the unified cultural space of the country (…) Traditional values are threatened by the activities of extremist and terrorist organisations, certain mass media and mass communications, the actions of the United States of America and other hostile foreign states, a number of transnational corporations and foreign non-profit organisations, as well as as the activities of certain organisations and individuals on the territory of Russia.”

“It is also emphasised,” the decree concludes, “that Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and other religions have had a significant impact on the formation of traditional values common to believers and non-believers. At the same time, Orthodoxy plays a special role in the formation and strengthening of traditional values’.

Lucien Goldmann, in his Human Sciences and Philosophy, explained how knowledge of history enables the individual man to enter into relationship with other men: “The fact is that the individual ‘I’ does not exist except against the background of the community”. According to the author, it is in knowledge of the past that we seek the same thing we seek in knowledge of contemporary men. It is first of all, the fundamental attitudes of individuals and human groups towards values, community and the universe. Knowledge of history is of practical importance for us because we learn about men who, under different conditions, with different means, and mostly inapplicable to our era, fought for values and ideals that were analogous, identical or opposite to ours today, and this makes us aware that we belong to a whole that transcends us, that we continue in the present and that men who will come after us will continue in the future. Historical consciousness does not exist without an attitude that has transcended the individualist ego, and it is precisely one of the main means capable of operating this transcendence.

Without knowledge of history, is it not possible to understand the other, to understand their differences, to accept them, to demand reforms, to think about resilience, coexistence, and to build a new identity?

So what will the destruction of Eastern and Russian culture in the West lead to?

Graziella Giangiulio